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The Science Behind Doing Difficult Things & How it Makes You Better

The Science Behind Doing Difficult Things & How it Makes You Better

We're all humans trying to live our best life while we're here. That's our existence. But I don't think we have to search all that much.

Treat people well, appreciate the gift that is life, and do difficult shit. 

We're here for a moment, a blink. Our existence is here, then gone. Worrying is pointless. So is wasting time. So is not seeing how great you can be while you're here. Which is where difficult shit comes in.

Doing difficult shit - ie. discipline - doesn't just get you things (like improvement, pride, confidence, happiness, goals, achievement), but it's actually good for you and it's how one ought to live. 

And, there's research behind this.

What follows is a case for doing difficult things based on their benefits. But, the reality is we all know that we ought to be doing these things because they're the right things to do, the run, the workout, the work, but doing difficult things that you know are good for you has myriad benefits that we'll cover below.

Now, go for that run, and read the following if you're thinking if it's worth it or not.

A Case for Doing Difficult Things

Psychological Resilience and Self-Control

At the core of this research is the idea that exercising self-control by engaging in challenging tasks leads to stronger psychological resilience. A foundational study in this area is the famous "Marshmallow Test" conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel in the late 1960s.

The study found that children who could resist the temptation of eating a marshmallow immediately, with the promise of receiving a second marshmallow later, generally fared better in life outcomes, such as academic success and health. This early research underscored the importance of delayed gratification, a form of self-discipline, in achieving long-term goals.

The problem is that we seek a quick fix or a quick result. We search for hacks, tips, tricks, easy ways to reach the goals we so desperately want. The reality is that the only way to get the goal is to do the right thing, and then allow those correct habits to gain the momentum they need to have that goal come to fruition.

It's a simple equation, but people too often quit because they can't delay that gratification long enough. Don't be one of them.

Neuroscience Perspective

From a neuroscience perspective, engaging in challenging activities that you might not necessarily enjoy at the moment has been shown to strengthen neural pathways that contribute to willpower and self-control.

Regularly exercising these mental "muscles" can improve your ability to tackle difficult tasks in the future, making it easier to maintain habits that lead to success and well-being.

In short, the more you act on discipline the easier it gets. Or, the more you become disciplined. It becomes who you are, your identity, and if you're a disciplined man, the only barrier between you and your goals is time. 

The goal becomes inevitable if the discipline remains consistent for a long enough period.

Check out my book: the Lost Art of Discipline (Amazon)

The Role of Habit Formation

Research in behavioral science, particularly on habit formation, suggests that the act of consistently doing something challenging forms new habits and fundamentally changes how we perceive tasks over time.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of "The Power of Habit," habits are formed through a loop of cue, routine, and reward. By pushing through the initial resistance and finding personal rewards in challenging activities, these tasks can become more automatic and less daunting.

Improved Mental Health and Well-Being

Engaging in challenging activities, especially those that lead to personal growth or benefit, has been linked to improved mental health and well-being.

A study published in the "Journal of Happiness Studies" found that people who engage in difficult yet growth-oriented activities report higher levels of life satisfaction. This research suggests that the sense of accomplishment and personal progress achieved by overcoming challenges is a key component of happiness.

If it isn't difficult, it isn't rewarding. You see this in people who inherit wealth or win it in the lottery without actually having to earn it. It doesn't last long.

Because we live in a free market society (or still relatively free market in that there's still risk involved in earning), generational wealth - on average - lasts around one generation. It's likely because the man who developed the skills and took the risk and had the discipline to gain said wealth passed on the wealth, without passing on the grit to his kids.

Doing difficult things makes you happy, not just successful.

Long-Term Benefits

The long-term benefits of doing something difficult, as supported by research, include enhanced self-esteem, better stress management, and a more fulfilling life. For instance, studies have shown that people who engage in regular physical exercise, despite the initial effort and discomfort, experience improvements in mood and reduced rates of depression and anxiety.

As a guy who likes cigars, a nice glass of wine, and Italian foods of all kinds, doing difficult things also allows you to enjoy the purely pleasurable without guilt.

The benefits of doing difficult things are long term, but also immediate. They allow you to achieve, but also enjoy what is. People who don't do difficult things also end up having a more difficult life in general.

It seems to me, that we either choose to do things we don't really do, or we choose to live a life we don't really want to live. 

So, the choice is yours, it truly is. Just like the choice is mine.

We can opt for a life of doing difficult things or a difficult life. 

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